It’s Life Changing: Matt
- Real lives at CCD
Matt was taken to church from babyhood and remained in that church until he was an adult, but that didn’t make him a Christian. His family was active in their church in Bedfordshire; his father was a deacon and lay-preacher. Many of Matt’s school friends saw him as always being a Christian, but Matt knew that wasn’t the case. In church, he would take notes while the pastor spoke, and he liked to add up all the numbers on the hymn board. Despite never resisting attending church with his family and enjoying seeing his friends there, church was often “a bit of a slog” for him.
There were a number of international students associated with the church. One day when Matt was in early secondary school, he remembers one of them asking him directly if he was a Christian. Matt honestly admitted that he was not.
It was some years later before his non-Christian status was seriously challenged. When he was fifteen-years-old Matt’s church held a mission weekend where a friend of David’s was speaking ( read David’s story ). On Saturday, the church hosted a meal and this man, Gerard, spoke afterwards. Matt felt convicted that he was a sinner. He knew he wasn’t ready to meet God and that he needed a Saviour to put that right. But he was scared.
On Sunday, Gerard preached twice, each time increasing Matt’s conviction that he was a lost sinner. The Sunday should have been the last of the meetings with Gerard, but that changed. Gerard came to speak to the church’s youth group on Monday evening at a church member’s home. Matt remembers that he ended up sitting right across from Gerard. “It was like I was the only one in the room.” The message spoke powerfully to Matt’s need and led him to Jesus’ feet. Jesus had lived the perfect life Matt couldn’t and had taken the punishment for Matt’s sins when He died on the cross.
Matt went home that evening, praying to be forgiven from his sins. A couple days later, he read an article in a Christian magazine that really helped him be totally settled in his new faith in Christ. After that, he never looked back. He knew he was safe and secure in Christ. That assurance has mercifully never been shaken.
Matt attended ‘enquirers’ meetings at his church and was soon baptised, publicly declaring that he was following Christ. Because Matt had always been a serious kind of person and had faithfully attended church with his family, he did not notice much difference in himself at first, except for the assurance that he had been forgiven and belonged to the Lord.
About a year after becoming a Christian, he served as part of a United Beach Missions team in New Quay. The group of Christians gathered on the beach every weekday to run Bible-based children’s activities, as well as open air meetings some evenings. His time on the team left him deeply challenged, especially by the godly example of two of his teammates. Their faith made him examine his own. “In a way, it was a bigger turning point in my life than my conversion.” His attitude changed as he saw that his faith should impact every part of his life.
It would be a number of years later that another change began. As before, it started on a beach team in New Quay! Matt had shared about how God had changed his life in public before, but this time he was asked to preach. It evidently went well because afterwards he wondered if it was something the Lord was prompting him to do more of.
Not long after that, he met his future wife. He remembered part-jokingly asking her if she was prepared to live in a mud hut as a missionary with him! Well, that didn’t scare her off and they were married after a time.
By his late twenties, Matt was preaching in various churches about every other month. As he did, people would comment to him about becoming a pastor. With time, Matt became increasingly convinced that the Lord was telling him this was something he should be doing.
Eventually Matt emailed his pastor, expressing his thoughts that he was being called to become a pastor. To Matt’s surprise, the pastor was very hesitant – in retrospect, he seemed to be testing out Matt’s sincerity. After a time, his church voted in favour for Matt to begin ministry training. He became an elder in the church and started studying with the Theological Seminary in Bala, where his pastor had studied years before. The distance learning suited Matt’s needs so that he could continue in his employment and not relocate his young family. He studied for four years, the last one being after he had moved to pastor here at Deeside.
Because Matt knew Deeside’s previous interim pastor, Matt was asked to fill in preaching one Sunday. It was a difficult beginning for him – he had a flat tyre that needed to be repaired before the long drive home. During the evening service there were problems with the church IT. Despite those difficulties, he felt immediately inclined towards to church. “I had never been to a church quite like it,” he reflected. He was hopeful after that first meeting of becoming our pastor.
As he left his previous employment, some of his co-workers commented that they “wished they had Matt’s faith” and that they could “pursue their dreams.” But becoming a pastor is so much more and Matt didn’t have delusions about it.
Within a year, he and his family DID move up to Deeside so that he could become our pastor. That will be eight years ago this year.
From an infant in church to full-time pastor, his story is an ongoing work of God’s grace.
– by E.M. Harding